Most guys already know there’s more to just pumping iron when getting into shape. Nutrition is just as important. And although we love those chocolate mocha protein shakes as much as anyone, we love actual food more. A great workout can be totally ruined with the intake of the wrong food, or as I learned, even too much of a good thing.
There are numerous apps on the market right now to counteract this problem, one of them is the tremendously successful, MyFitnessPal.
I interviewed Elle Penner, Dietician at MyFitnessPal, to pinpoint exactly what us guys should be eating surrounding our workouts and why apps like hers actually work.
When to count calories
Josh: Someone told me that if you’re eating healthy you shouldn’t have to count calories. What’s your view?
Elle: For sure I don’t think calorie counting is for everyone. I don’t think everyone needs to, but it is a helpful tool. It tells you the fuel — the energy — that food gives your body. It puts food into a nourishment and fuel category … and actually what makes you feel good if you’re going to keep tabs on what you’re eating.
If you only get so many calories a day, you’re going to use them more wisely. It is true that if you eat a generally balanced diet, you take hunger cues, you’re good at portion control … if you can manage all that, then for sure you don’t absolutely need to count calories. I do think, though, that in our current food environment it’s hard to do that.
DO NOT EAT
Josh: Other than fast food, things people obviously know is bad for them, what is absolutely on your “do not eat” list while trying to get in shape?
Elle: I just try to avoid processed foods as much as possible … boxed carbs — cookies and crackers. These things that are made with really long ingredients lists. Food is meant to be simple, as nature intended. So the closer we can eat to that idea, the better.
Pre and Post workout nutrition
Josh: For athletic types who are already trying to eat healthy and who may already work out regularly, how can MyFitnessPal still help?
Elle: One thing I noticed when I was training for the San Francisco Marathon last year was that people with a healthy diet typically don’t eat high-carb. If you’re training for a race or some kind of endurance, you want to build up that storage of carbs and glycogen in your muscles. Using it (MyFitnessPal) to monitor your carbohydrate intake, and to make sure you’re eating the right kinds of carbs … For the average athlete it’s about fueling properly.
Another thing is pre and post workout nutrition. Getting in easy-to-digest carbohydrates before your workout … But then also getting a mix of protein and carbs within one hour of finishing your workout — this will optimize the way your muscles repair and recover. You can use MyFitnessPal if you’re shooting for a specific number of protein or carbs.
Josh: What are the best — and most common — foods to eat before and after a workout.
Elle: Before a workout you want to stick with the things easier to digest … A piece of fruit — something with carbohydrates that can be easily digested. A slice of bread, toast with a little butter and jam on it. A little bowl of cereal. Don’t go heavy on the milk … A granola bar.
Post workout you want to mix protein and carbs to optimize muscle repair and recovery, within that 60 minute window. Chocolate milk is actually a good post-recovery workout snack, because it has a good ratio of carbs to protein … some nuts paired with a piece of fruit … a hard-boiled egg with some fruit … things like that.
Josh: Name some foods people probably eat a lot of, but surprisingly need to cut back on?
Elle: One thing is drinking their calories … Those calories add up … And just snack food … You just can’t snack mindlessly, especially if you’re multi-tasking or in the car. You may snack habitually, even though you’re not really hungry. So that’s another sneaky way calories can add up.
The Kate Hudson rule
Josh: Why is the app working?
Elle: For weight-loss users … it definitely brings a mindfulness to eating. If you think about what you put in your mouth before eating it, you tend to make better decisions. It actually teaches people a lot about nutrition that they may have not realized.
For example, Kate Hudson is a big MyFitnessPal user, who has a super healthy diet, but by using MFP she realized she was eating about 1,400 calories a day in cashews — healthy fats, but this is what we like to call at MFP a moment of clarity.
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